How to respond in a divided culture?

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How to respond in a divided culture?

You can listen to the full message from City Church here.

There were several thoughts taken from the book, Christians in the Age of Outrage by Ed Stetzer.

Why the increase in division?

  • America is becoming increasingly polarized in their viewpoints (political, social, etc.)

  • The unprecedented advancement of technology and the effects of social media and how we interact.

What has fueled the outrage?

  • Social Media: Everyone now has a platform and opinion.

  • News Outlets: There is an increase in media bias, clickbait, and sensationalized news that leans toward the outliers and extremes.

  • Religious Hypocrisy: “Christians” who show allegiance to a group, idea, or political party more than the Kingdom of God.

  • Echo Chambers: We only allow voices into our lives who amplify or reinforce our beliefs or viewpoints.

Traps in which Christians have added to the division:

  • We assume that if our point is valid than our outrage is justified.

    • It is okay to be angry but often our outrage leads us to respond instead of reconcile, which only increases the division.

  • We get distracted from our Kingdom Mission and the proclamation of the gospel by all the other issues.

    • Any other issue, other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, that becomes our identity or we promote above the gospel is idolatry and sin.

  • We take an all-or-nothing approach to engagement with others that demands, “You have to agree with me or you’re _________.”

    • Racist, un-American, ignorant, bigoted, elitist, heretical, unchristian, liberal, conservative, Trump lover/hater

  • We quickly respond to a topic, offering a post, tweet, or comment without reflection, healthy dialogue, learning, or offering a better way.

    • Remarks made in the heat of the moment rarely lead to reconciliation or offer a better way forward.

  • We engage with people online in a way we would never treat them face-to-face.

    • Online interaction has dehumanized people to the point they are simply a screen name, avatar, or profile picture and not someone made in the image of God.

  • We choose to fight in every battle and die on every hill.

    • We must use wisdom and discernment in every issue - when to speak, remain silent, listen, ask questions, etc. (James 1:19)

  • We use shame to bring about change in others.

    • Brent Brown: “Shame used as a tool for social justice only produces defensiveness and rationalization in the one being shamed."

Rules of engagement for citizens of the Kingdom of God:

  • We must remember that we are Christ’s ambassadors of redemption and reconciliation. (2 Col 5:18-20)

    • We are people of second chances who look to redeem and restore, not to destroy or “win.”

  • True love for others is SACRIFICIAL and stands up for injustice and oppression no matter the personal cost. (1 John 3:16-18)

    • It is one thing to speak up online which often requires very little sacrifice. It is entirely another thing to do something which costs you something.

  • We are first called to embody truth and justice in our lives and the church before we call it out in those around us.

    • Calling out truth in others that we are not living or embodying in our own lives has a name: hypocrisy.

  • We must root ourselves in the bigger story of God’s mission and faithfulness throughout church history.

    • God has often raised up a remnant within the church who was counter cultural and remained FAITHFUL in spite of difficult cultural circumstances.

  • We must cut through all the noise and choose to listen to the right voices.

    • We are the guardians of our ears, eyes, and heart and must limit the negative influences and reinforce the right voices through spiritual practices and life-on-life discipleship.

  • We realize that TRUE LOVE for others can only flow from a heart that has been transformed by the love of Christ.

    • All other forms of love will inevitably regress into manipulation, shame, abuse, anger, selfishness, misplaced identity, etc.

  • We must see the imago dei that is inherent in each and every person.

    • People are not things to be won, conquered, or destroyed but men and women who are formed in the image of God and worthy of honor and respect.

  • We must be missionaries of grace who are known more for our sacrificial love than our outrage and aggression.

    • Our culture is drawn towards people of humility who are walking in love.

Can you add to this list? What traps have we fallen into? What rules of engagement need to be added?

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When God disappoints...

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When God disappoints...

For Palm Sunday and Easter, I preached a two-part message about what to do when "God disappoints" or "when he fails to show up like you expected."

Nothing could describe Holy Week (pre-resurrection) for the disciples, friends, and family of Jesus more than disappointment and unmet expectations.

  • They were expecting a physical kingdom and instead got a spiritual kingdom
  • They were expecting a throne and instead got a cross
  • They were expecting to rule in power and instead were humbled by death
  • They were expecting a king with military force and instead got a king on a donkey

 

On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), two disciples are slowly and disappointedly walking away from Jerusalem after the death of Jesus. They are dejected. They are confused. They are more than likely scared. Nothing played out like they had hoped or expected.

Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Luke 24:19-21

 

Here's what we experience in our faith journey on the road to Emmaus:

  • Disillusionment: a disappointment from discovering something is not as good as you thought it would be
  • Deconstruction: a deconstruction of a faith that no longer works or makes sense in light of what you are experiencing 
  • Disappointment: a realization that life rarely goes according to your plan

 

Here's what we discover on our road to Emmaus:

  • Because of circumstances, all of us will walk down our own personal road to Emmaus in our life (Luke 24:13-14).
  • Jesus will walk with us down our road to Emmaus and draw near to us, whether we recognize him or not (Luke 24:15)
  • On the road to Emmaus, Jesus confronts the lies we have believed (Luke 24:25-27)
  • When we see him, we learn to build our understanding of life upon the gospel (Luke 24:30-32).
  • That maybe the only way we get back to Jerusalem is through Emmaus (Luke 24:33-35)

 

When your dreams are shattered. When God doesn't show up like you want. When pain and despair send you into a tailspin. When other Christians wound and betray you. When your 5-year plan comes to an abrupt halt. When you face the unexpected and the unfair - YOU FIND OUT THAT JESUS IS STILL WALKING ALONGSIDE YOU ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS AND LEADING YOU INTO A GREATER DISCOVERY OF THE GOSPEL.

 

 

 

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The Killer of Joy

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The Killer of Joy

Busyness is the killer of joy. We begin focusing on a preferred time in the future and develop a tendency to miss what is happening right now. I can be living right in the middle of the "good ole days" of life, family, and ministry and completely miss it. The last few weeks I've watched God do some amazing, remarkable things in my life, and yet, because I was operating beyond my capacity, I've often felt more drained than encouraged.

Here's the hardest part: Admitting that the busyness of life is nobody's fault but mine! I'm the gatekeeper of what I allow in and out of my life. I choose what to say "yes" and "no" to.

Busyness is a thief! Busyness drains my energy and it keeps me from giving the people I love my very best. Busyness keeps me running and creates feelings of inadequacy and inability. Busyness robs me of the joy of being in the moment. Busyness keeps me worried and fearful about the things I can't control. It is a thief!

In my life, I've realized busyness is only accentuated when I've failed to do these things:

  • Neglected times of retreat and solitude with God
  • Not managed my time and schedule well or said "yes" to too many things or the wrong things
  • Not spent enough quality time with healthy, life-giving people
  • Failed to regularly practice thanksgiving and gratitude

What do you need to take back today that has been robbed from you?

What are the healthy practices/rhythms you need to find in order to walk in peace and joy?

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Prayer & Fasting: Growth is not a straight line

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Prayer & Fasting: Growth is not a straight line

I've watched time and time again people get frustrated because they can't maintain growth or change in their life. They think that life is linear; a straight line up and to the right, but it's not - not even close. In fact, that's just downright unrealistic. Real growth that leads to real change is a series of S curves.

This means that after you experience a mountaintop moment (coming back from a missions trip, encountering God in a church service, coming off 21 days of prayer & fasting) it is unrealistic to think that you can stay on that mountaintop. There is a natural letdown after each mountaintop experience but not back to where you started. If you really evaluate what has happened in your life then you realize that you don't start back at square one. The distance between the CHANGE and the START is the GROWTH you've achieved through that experience.

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In light of this, please take a few minutes and evaluate what has happened in you during this 21 days of prayer & fasting:

  • What did I learn about myself during these 21 days? (good and bad)
  • What was God trying to show me through this process?
  • What needs to change in my life moving forward? Are there certain things that have a tendency to control me?
  • What spiritual rhythms of renewal do I need to begin implementing?

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I can't get this quote out of my mind...

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I can't get this quote out of my mind...

I can’t get this quote out of my head. When I first read it months ago, I underlined it, but didn’t think too much about it. Later on, however, I began thinking about it over and over again and it began to work on my heart.

“I have discovered that all the unhappiness of man arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.” - Pascal

Did you get it? If not, you may trying reading it again or just contemplate it for a few minutes.

The man or woman who has learned the art of being alone while simultaneously being content is no longer being controlled by anything. They do not require any sort of external stimuli to occupy their mind or keep them entertained, for that person is fully at peace not only with who they are, but with who God is. This person is free, a slave to nothing.

There are often times in my life when my heart and mind are far too busy - too full to stay quietly anywhere for very long.

But this is what I want. This is what I desire. I want to sit in a room without my phone and I want to pray without making a to-do list. I want to get on social media without feeling as though my life is incomplete and I want to sit at the dinner table with my family and be fully present in the moment. I want to see an open weekend as a joy and I want to walk slowly enough to enjoy the beauty of life around me. 

And I’m not sure the remedy to this problem will be one that is easy. It’s quite possible that the only way to accomplish this task is to force yourself to sit quietly. To push past the point of distraction or past the point of comfort. To stop thinking about all the things “I could or should be doing.” To just sit, to simply be, to say no to the lies that I need “something else” to satisfy me.

My prayer for you (and myself) during this prayer and fasting journey is that as you remove certain things in your life, God is enough for you. This process will require much training but I believe peace is truly found in these moments of solitude. I'm praying for you!

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Prayer & Fasting: Something has to die...

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Prayer & Fasting: Something has to die...

Resurrections is what God does. It's who He is. He specializes in taking dead things and giving them life or taking what is broken and piecing it back together again.

The unfortunate part about resurrections is the reality, that first, something must die. That's what makes a resurrection so spectacular, that at some point along the way there was ZERO life remaining. While resurrections are surely spectacular the process is rarely easy. I guess that's why deaths are much more common than resurrections.

I believe fasting is the difficult and grueling process of bringing death to something we've started to cling to. We're praying that God will bring resurrection through this process, but first, something must die in us. During this process of death, there is a very real struggle we will experience as something we've developed an appetite for is being ripped from us.

Every time I begin a new prayer and fasting journey I experience this death over the first few days. It's uncomfortable. It's difficult. Things are dying inside of me that my flesh wants to hold onto. My mind is being rewired to think differently. As I sit here writing this, my stomach is growling and my head is throbbing. It's just another reminder that death must precede resurrection. 

If you're feeling this struggle right now or in the days to come, take courage. The resurrection is always worth it.

 

 

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The Problem with Clarity

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The Problem with Clarity

I grew up in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. My great grandfather and grandfather were both Assembly of God ministers and I’m deeply appreciative of many things that were passed onto me. I’ve learned along my journey it’s not always necessary to throw out the baby with the bathwater and the importance of “eating the meat and spitting out the bones” applies to almost every arena of life. You don’t have to dismiss an idea or person because you find an area of disagreement. 

Growing up in this movement, however, led many of us to believe that clarity = a closer walk with Christ. If you were really in tune with the Holy Spirit then he would be speaking to you so clearly that it would be impossible to miss God’s will or the direction for your life. This isn’t intended to dismiss the role of the prophet in the church or the ability of the Holy Spirit to bring clarity in our life, instead, it’s addressing the false belief that every issue has a formula and every problem can be traced back to a deficiency in our faith.

There was always an answer, even if we had to make it up right there on the spot and adorn it with some spiritual jargon to make it slide down a little easier. Some of the most egocentric, non-biblical, manipulative statements I’ve ever heard in my life started with the phrase...(click to read more)

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Can we disagree and still love?

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Can we disagree and still love?

There is no shortage of differing opinions around us. Whether it be politics, refugees, LGBTQ rights, racial tensions - there is plenty to discuss and plenty of varying opinions.  But how do we face disagreements or differing opinions from a biblically-based, gospel-centered perspective as followers of Jesus?

First of all, this question is extremely nuanced and can be answered based on a number of different factors. The Bible employs us to stand firm in the essentials of our faith and to seek unity around these non-negotiables. However, most issues are not black and white as many may think. They require deep reflections, study, discussion, and humility in order to navigate.

Let me give you some thoughts on how we as gospel-centered followers of Jesus can better navigate how we choose to disagree.

5 unfortunate trends I’ve observed:

  • We make very bold statements with very limited information. Everyone is an expert on everything. We have a conversation, read a blog, watch a video clip, hear a story and automatically translate that into an opinion/fact with very little reflection or discussion.

(click here to read more...)

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Why cultural lies have left us dissatisfied with relationships

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Why cultural lies have left us dissatisfied with relationships

This past Sunday we finished up our series, LOVE LIES, cultural myths we believe about love, sex, and marriage. It’s the second time we’ve done this particular series. There is not another series more discussed, watched/listened to, and attended. Why, because it deeply resonates with questions we’re all facing in one way or another.

Our culture has fed us LIES about love, sex, and marriage and we’ve bought them. These LIES/MYTHS have given us unrealistic expectations about love, sex, and marriage that has only fueled a growing dissatisfaction in many relationships and marriages.

What are some of these MYTHS/LIES that are fueling this dissatisfaction and how do we replace them with TRUTH that will lead us into joy? (read more)

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ONE thing our kids are missing

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ONE thing our kids are missing

Let me start out by saying I don’t have this one figured out. I’m not an expert in the field. My kids are ages 6, 4, 3, & 1. I have a lot to learn. My church doesn’t have this figured out. We are, however, being extremely intentional about finding a solution.

Here are a few things I've observed that prompted this post:

  • Why are so many kids I grew up with, who had genuine experiences with God, not following Christ today?
  • Why are all the right Christian environments (church, school, camp, etc.) not producing more mature followers of Christ?
  • Why are so many Christian parents obsessed with good things like sports, activities, education, nutrition, etc. and relatively unconcerned about their children's spiritual formation?
  • Why are our teenagers leaving for college after years of attending church and trying to figure out who they are and what they believe?

I believe the answer is multi-faceted but I also believe there is a key ingredient we've neglected.

Faith is not made genuine until it is tested. (read more)

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The question that changed everything!

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The question that changed everything!

I was just a few years into full-time ministry and I had already started to struggle. I was beginning to feel somewhat disillusioned with the constant necessity of putting on big events, trying to talk people into showing up for church, and the general obsession with numerical growth. It seemed like such a far cry from what I wanted it be and so distant from what I read throughout the New Testament.

It was during this struggle that I felt as though God was changing something deep inside of me. He was beginning to ask me a question that would revolutionize my life and how I would see ministry. (read more) 

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Family of Differents: How Paul taught the church to disagree...

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Family of Differents: How Paul taught the church to disagree...

In a social media age where we're inundated with opinions, viewpoints, and offenses, I think Paul's teaching in Romans 14 & 15 has never been more relevant. 

Paul is writing to a church in Rome faced with the difficult task of trying to find unity amidst incredible diversity.

In 49 AD Emperor Claudius declared an edict forcing all the Jews to leave Rome. When the Jewish Christians return in the mid 50's they found that their church had taken on a Gentile flavor. These Gentile Christians were experiencing complete freedom from the law and felt ZERO obligation to honor the festivals, rules, and rituals of the returning Jewish Christians. Paul spends several chapters addressing this divide in the second half of Romans.

This particular disagreement in Romans 14 is about...(read more)

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Please stop freaking out about America's moral decline (5 Reasons)

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Please stop freaking out about America's moral decline (5 Reasons)

I sat through a National Day of Prayer service last Thursday and something became very clear about an hour into the service. Christians simply aren’t sure how to respond to the changing moral climate of our country. The majority of the service consisted of videos highlighting gay marriage, Planned Parenthood, the current Presidential race, and an array of other issues the church is facing.

So, what’s wrong with this approach you might be asking? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

 

HERE ARE 5 THINGS WE CAN’T FORGET AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS:

 

       1. HISTORICALLY, THE CHURCH HAS THRIVED IN SEASONS OF SUFFERING AND PERSECUTION.

If you’ve done any study on the early church in the first several centuries then you know a persecuted church has always been a living, revived, radical church. In Acts 8, the martyrdom of Stephen became one of the single greatest factors in the spread of Christianity throughout the world. If you need some other examples feel free to study how the persecuted church around the world today (i.e. China) are growing at an unprecedented rate... (read more)

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Navigating God's Will...

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Navigating God's Will...

What's the number one question I get asked about as a pastor: How do I determine God's will for my life? 

Should I go here or should I go there? What if I make the wrong decision? How do I know for sure? What do you think I should do?

Let me first say that God can speak to us in a variety of ways. Sometimes through prayer, through his word, through a trusted friend, mentor, or spiritual advisor. When trying to decipher God's will I believe that obedience trumps everything. If God speaks or leads then we must follow.

What about those moments when we're not sure? When God hasn't necessarily spoken to us? This is when things get a little trickier. This is when it's easy for our own selfish motives and desires to get mixed into "God's will" for us. Let's get one thing straight. I don't believe we are supposed to walk around in fear of missing God's will. I think his grace is sufficient in our weakness and uncertainty. I do, however, believe there are certain principles that should help guide us on the journey.

The first question we must ask is this: What is God's primary purpose for my life? Although our verbiage may differ, I believe our biblical response would be...(Read more)

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People of grace and/or truth?

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People of grace and/or truth?

"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." - Rick Warren

 

I think it’s safe to say that many Christians are struggling to manage the tension of being people of both grace and truth. In all fairness, it can be a difficult paradigm to navigate. So what is a biblical response to the issues the church is facing today?

First of all, we must get beyond this idea that we must choose sides. The false understanding that you must either affirm or reject somebody’s lifestyle and beliefs. The lie that we must be people of either grace or truth. In an attempt to justify our already-desgined belief system we will misquote scriptures and make sweeping remarks about the life of Jesus that aren’t representative of the whole, and are just plain unbiblical.

For example, far too many Christians believe that Jesus never identified sin in people’s life or called them out to a higher level of truth. He absolutely did...(click to read more)

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Are you living under the covering?

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Are you living under the covering?

I fear that an incredible lesson is being lost on a generation.

We are living our lives greatly unaware, or at the very least undervaluing, the importance of spiritual authority in our lives. The covering of protection and blessing that living under the canopy of God’s authority ushers into our lives.

God’s kingdom operates according to channels of authority and He chooses to promote according to channels of authority. There is place of blessing that can only be found in submission to godly authority. Unfortunately, this concept of authority has been under threat for some time.

The need to submit to spiritual authority has slowly been eroded by concepts such as personal liberty, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the freedom to choose our own path...

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Why "IT" is never enough!

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Why "IT" is never enough!

Deep down inside all of us have an “IT.” Something we believe will ultimately fulfill what may be lacking in our hearts. “IT” can be a job, a relationship, a thing, or even a future plan. Are you honest enough to admit your “IT”? _________________________________.

“IT” can be a very important thing, but “IT” can never be enough. Until our “WHO” becomes more important than our “IT,” we will... 

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What is God looking for?

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What is God looking for?

What is God looking for?  What is it that gets His attention? What is it that turns His head towards YOU? 

The answer is not easy or popular. It may not even be what you think. 

In scripture, we see that God continually bypasses the really talented, the masterfully skilled, and "the most likely to succeed" for the BROKEN. People who have fully embraced God's process. People who have embraced the pain, confusion, and sacrifice that comes with an authentic walk with Christ. People who have willingly surrendered their own plans, agendas, and outcomes.

King David understood that... (click to read more)

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The Irony of the Shortcut

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The Irony of the Shortcut

The irony of the shortcut is that they are actually detours in disguise. 

I had a friend growing up who absolutely refused to sit at a train crossing and wait. He would rather pull a u-turn in the middle of the road and race down to the next cross street, usually taking two or three times longer than just waiting.

We unfortunately assume that whatever route is quickest must be the best. At times, however, by taking the short route we unintentionally stunt the process of growth and development in our life. We become so enamored with progress or forward movement, we are quick to dismiss any stage of life that forces us to wait or get outside our comfort zone.

Can I encourage you with this? Please don’t assume the shortcut will get you to your destination any quicker. Be willing to embrace the process, no matter how uncomfortable that process may be.

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Death of the 5-Year Plan

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Death of the 5-Year Plan

I can't begin telling you how many times I've been asked about my 5-year plan.

The truth is I used to have a 5-year plan. As a recovering clarity addict, I had everything in my life planned out perfectly. Several years back, however, I noticed a recurring theme in my life - none of my 5-year plans actually happened. At least not the ones where I tried to predict where I would live or what I would be doing or how everything would play out.

  • I've learned that almost every great story has this line somewhere in it: "That's not how I thought it was going to happen."
  • I'm learning that living by faith is actually a more exciting journey that trying to figure it out.
  • I'm learning that allowing God to re-route me is a necessary part of allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my steps.
  • I'm learning that plans are a good thing but learning to hold them loosely is an even better thing.
  • I'm learning that so much of my need for clarity was really rooted in a lack of trust.

Where will I be in 5 years? I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out.

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